INFOMAGIC - another perspectivegreenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread
This was posted on another forum today, I believe it is wort your time and effort to read. I hope, Art, if you are on this forum, that you don't mind me posting this. Compare it to Infomagic 1 and 2 and perry arnets' analysis.
I'm sure you folks are monitoring the news and various web sites just like I am. Something that becomes plainer every day is the large number of companies that are redefining their Y2K mission. I think this is a symptom of the quicksand they are in. Budgets are climbing quickly with a lot of big corporations (and the Govt) while the work keeps getting redefined down. That means less work will be done with more money laid out to do it. A stand out fact of the situation is the number of companies that have spent less than half their budgets so far as compared to the number who said they would have all their work done by 12-31-98.
Problems I see here:
Systems are being recast in a different light in an effort to make the remediation figures look better. I think in some cases they are being redefined just to make it look *possible* to get the repairs done in time. "The crime rate has dropped steadily for the last five years", but we see the truth when we look at Philadelphia who recently had to admit they were just 'redefining' the crime to make the statistics look better. The statistics don't matter a whit to the guy who got assaulted or the woman who got raped. Neither will the Y2K repair statistics matter to those who suffer from system failures.
Another question this tactic brings up is what is a 'mission critical' system? That is something that is usually undefined. Judging from figures I have seen in passing, mission critical systems seem to be less than 50% of the total. Does that mean 50% of the systems out there were not needed by the companies and governments? Did we really have that much waste in the IT business? I don't believe it. Sure, there must be SOME waste out there, but business is a tough racket and downsizing happens all the time. That means people get fired, buildings get sold, belts get tightened, and I have to believe it also means useless systems get dropped rather than supported.
If we define 'mission critical' systems as those without which the entity will be unable to perform it's function and will therefor be out of business, then the other systems I will refer to as the DTC systems. The 'D'eath of a 'T'housand 'C'uts systems. The DTC systems do serve a function. If they didn't, would they be there? What will be the effect of these systems being pushed off the remediation horizon? I think we will see business failures due to these systems going haywire. It won't be as immediate as, say, what would happen if the SSA lost it's entire database of 'customers'. If they did that they would cease to function. No, I think the DTC failures will result in enough marginal problems to drag many companies into their graves. Reports that are skewed or missing, predictions that are incorrect or nonexistent, these will result in lost opportunities and missed profits. Perhaps they may trigger shortages of raw materials because the order report that used to be dependable on a daily basis is now available only weekly because it must be manually verified. In a JIT world of business can even a slight reduction in efficiency be withstood? If so, for how long?
The old 9 woman/9 months/9 babies phrase comes to mind every time I see a report about a company like GM who has spent a minor fraction of their total budget for Y2K. It seems to me that there are too many companies and governments in the same boat. They are competing for the same limited resources. All the high sounding budget reports and flowery phrases won't stand up to hard facts. We have one year left. The pool of people that can do this work is for all intent fixed (we just can't build a million IT workers overnight). The number of machines available for testing is reasonably fixed. Heavy iron computers don't fall off trucks everyday. They are ordered a year or more in advance. These are the resources in demand to deal with Y2K. Like coal or oil, they are a limited resource. Sure, you can find new ways to locate and use coal and oil thereby stretching out the supply, but only so far. The same applies to IT resources. You can redirect them, redefine them, re-re-re-whatever them, but A=A no matter how you cut it.
The idea that all these major corporations and governments are going to fall back on these huge budgets all at the SAME time, all competing for the SAME resources....it's staggering. It's like every race car driver in the nation getting ready for next weeks race, and all have put off buying their tires till a day before the race. 100 drivers, 100 cars, 50 sets of tires. Uh oh! No amount of sponsor money will make more tires appear overnight, just as no amount of corporate and/or Government money can make even one programmer appear from thin air. The analogy carries on a bit more before it falls apart. Suppose some of those drivers fall back on substandard tires, or tires made for normal highway use. Guess what? Perhaps they can *say* they are ready to race, but they are not. Perhaps they might crawl up on the track, but all they'll do is clog up the course and cause accidents. They can *say* they are ready to race, but if they try they'll do nothing more than destroy the event altogether.
All these thoughts are just my musings. I have no standing, no name in the business. I'm just a chubby car mechanic who likes to ponder things others don't want to think about.
I get contacted on an almost daily basis by strangers. These are people who want to know how to get ready, what I am doing, how bad do I think it will get, is the house next door to me for sale, etc. For a long time I tried to answer these people, tried to help them if I could, tried to save them some of the time I spent digging into this issue. I tried to calm them and get them to decide for themselves what is important to them.
Frankly, from here on out the risk/reward ratio is just too high for me to keep it up. Look at it this way....If the world goes cruising on without problems then anything I do for them would be wasted for *I* believe hard core preparation is in order. If the hard times hit with a vengeance then I run the risk of having them remember me, not as a guy who gave them good advice, but as a guy who has everything they want. That's the risk. The reward used to be thinking I was helping people prepare for what I think is ahead. That reward has expired. I just don't think the bulk of the people out there CAN prepare in time. I think it's going to be that bad, that hard, that drastic, that only someone who has already started getting ready will make it through unscathed.
My days of responding are over. From here on out we just get our friends and family ready, that's it. Sounds hard? Not from my viewpoint. NOT being hard would be to risk my family. I will not take that risk. From now on, someone wants my advice they can send a check to prove they are capable of using my advice. Since my advice is worthless I don't expect to get any checks.
Cory set the arbitrary deadline of 500 days left for business to be fully involved in fixing their systems. Now he says they might, at best, get the critical work done. If they go whole hog, money is no object, screw the CEO's feelings, bet the farm all out gung ho get out of my way fix it or else.
Well...NonGeek says it's too late for even that. Of course, my opinion is worth squat. Milne and Infomagic are right. That's the saddest thing I can even dream of saying."
-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), December 15, 1998
Mission critical = needed to keep CEO/CFO's head above water till rest of company can learn to swim?
Government is doing the same thing - redefining "mission critical" to fit deadlines. Means the rest, as you indicated, will either break and affect somebody, or break and be ignored. Be nice if they would delete the "be ignored" part completely. (Deleting is a part of many company's "remediation" efforts too.)
-- Robert A. Cook, P.E. (Kennesaw, GA) (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 15, 1998.
Andy, You're a liar. Don't give me that bullshit you won't help Joe New Guy out on the problem. You know and I know that's crap. Your mom would box your ears if she knew you let somebody down. Because you hear in the back of your head her voice saying,"How'd you feel if it was you?" I feel the same way. Every time I want to tell folks to pound sand, I hear mom saying in the back of the noggin,"How would you feel if you needed help and no one would stop." I'd feel bad mom, real bad. SO I tell the truth as I see it so I don't have to remember ANYTHING. The bad thing about that is only 1 out of ten listens and then only about 1 out of 5 does anything about it.
-- nine (email@example.com), December 16, 1998.
Nine - in the immortal words of Supertramp "right, right, you're bloody well right" - yes I am continuing to do my bit with friends, family, acquaintences (-5sp) and complete strangers. I have a thick skin:)
I'm renting an apartment now, next year I start to get serious. I'm fluid, I will be winging it to a certain extent. Also, I didn't write the essay. I'm an IT guy and would have written something similar - this guy Art is a mechanic - this is his take. Funny how all the reasoned arguments all seem to be Milne/Infomagic, I've yet to see a reasoned "bump in the road Mildred" argument.
Thanks for your faith in me 9!!!
-- Andy (2000EOD@prodigy.net), December 16, 1998.
Probably easiest to explain by analogy; your life depends on making a car journey. What's mission-critical about the car?
If the engine won't run or the wheels won't turn, you're finished. If the brakes won't work your chances are seriously reduced (in flat terrain maybe not to zero).
On the other hand if its catalytic converter is kaput, no problem. If the rear end has just been well crumpled in a collision, no problem as long as the wheels still work. Inbetween these are some things that matter quite a bit but probably aren't truly mission critical: screenwipers, shock absorbers, worn tyres, seatbelts, serious wear on lots of things, direction indicators, .... All can be fixed later if you manage to make the critical journey.
So just think of the corporate systems like this car's systems. Some of its "essential" systems are, in the final analysis, not mission- critical.
-- Nigel Arnot (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 16, 1998.
The car analogy you use is a good one to a point. What is non-critical? The turn signals? Big deal, who needs turn signals....half the people don't use them anyway. But stop to imagine if only 25% of them worked thruout the nation, the world. Everyday we might see 25,000 more accidents in this country, highways would be a bit mor backed up, cities would grid lock a bit easier. Exectutives would be a bit later to meetings, deliveries would get there an hour later, "That damn traffic". The economy would suffer, just for lack of turn signals.
How about brake lights? Parking brakes? windshield wipers? Non are mission critical at all. Imagine if all the windshield wipers...quit for one week. If it rained that week road traffic would dissappear. Commerce would stop.
DTC...Death of a Thousand Cuts.
-- Art Welling (email@example.com), December 16, 1998.
Sounds like it's time to dig out the Indianapolis 500 analogy again. It explains how a 15% failure rate could be "no big deal" or could be TEOTWAWKI.
"ANALOGY: The Indianapolis 500 (Efficiency Isn't the Same as Capacity)"
-- Kevin (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 16, 1998.
Andy, You are right to keep your mouth shut. I think we all go through the "save everyone we know" phase. I did for the first two months, but now I have done most of my preparing (food, water, heat, guns, etc...) I add to my stockpiles, and keep my mouth shut.
I watch for signs on the road to 2000. The mainstream press is climbing on board. The WSJ has almost an article each day on Y2K. The snowball is growing and heading downhill. My friends and family have been warned and informed. Now it's up to them to prepare.
-- Bill (email@example.com), December 16, 1998.
Maybe the saddest thing is that this We Can Still Somehow Get Things In Order So Y2K Won't Be So Bad game will be played until the very end. Call it the Mission Critical Systems ploy, the Fix On Failure ploy, the It Does Not Really Matter Anyway ploy, it will make no difference. No one will admit the truth -- that it is simply too late to avoid an Infomagic/Milne breakdown -- regardless of how few days are left until it happens.
-- Jack (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 16, 1998.
In the car mission critical analogy you all forgot the gas. Gas=electricity. All comes down to it, doesn't it?
-- Chris (email@example.com), December 16, 1998.
>>> On the other hand if its catalytic converter is kaput, no problem. If the rear end has just been well crumpled in a collision, no problem as long as the wheels still work. Inbetween these are some things that matter quite a bit but probably aren't truly mission critical: screenwipers, shock absorbers, worn tyres, seatbelts, serious wear on lots of things, direction indicators, .... All can be fixed later if you manage to make the critical journey. <<<<
Nigel, I can use your above comments to make another point. We just don't know how really complicated our society is, nor how elastic it is. What kind of shock or failure will it survive? I think it's in for a shock like never before.
To use your comments: A converter that's kaput..depends why it's kaput. If it's inactive and won't scrub the NO2 and HC from the exhaust stream, no it's not critical. If it's clogged because some engine managment sensor values were a few tenths of a volt off, then your car sits by the side of the road. Hit in the back end? Hmm....might go on, unless it's a Ford, in which case the inertial safety switch in the fuel system has tripped and your car won't run. (early Lincolns would do it with a slamming of the trunk, idiot engineers) Better not just reset that switch, it's there because those same engineers installed plastic fuel lines that rupture in an accident. Can you say BOOOM!
My point is, the car you use as an example is a good one, not because it will go on with minor damage, but because you don't understand just how complex it is and the risk that poses.. That's the way our society is. The other point is we NEED that complexity to support the population we have. My 1969 Chevelle would start unfailingly everyday, and when something on it quit I could coble it together and get where I was going. My 1991 Chevrolet has electronics that will let me sit when they quit, and NOTHING I can do on the road will make it go despite 20 years of diagnostic experience. We as a society could not survive if we all drove 1969 chevrolets. We would not be able to breath. We NEED the complexity of todays vehicles or we could never afford to have them in the ammount we do. That complexity we must have to survive is also the complexity that is at risk with Y2K.
Nigel, I could destroy your vehicle given ten minutes and the ability to change 2 volts spaced over different components. .2 volts here, .3 volts there. It's THAT fragile. It's a bloody miracle the things work at all. Our society is like that too.
DTC...Death of a Thousand Cuts. .2 volts here, .3 volts there.
-- Art Welling (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 16, 1998.
> Another question this tactic brings up is what is a 'mission critical' system? That is something that is usually undefined. Judging from figures I have seen in passing, mission critical systems seem to be less than 50% of the total. Does that mean 50% of the systems out there were not needed by the companies and governments? Did we really have that much waste in the IT business? I don't believe it. Sure, there must be SOME waste out there, but business is a tough racket and downsizing happens all the time. That means people get fired, buildings get sold, belts get tightened, and I have to believe it also means useless systems get dropped rather than supported. >
There is a lot of waste. A good many business functions aren't mission critical. But they are mandated by government in one way or another. Since all companies have to comply, it makes for waste, but because all have to comply the competitive playin field is still level.
Just one example: At large companies, the V.P. in charge of car(van)-pooling and attendant parking lot restrictions striping and posting, :=) and the attendant computer resources. Non-mission-critical.
-- z (email@example.com), December 16, 1998.
Here's an example of a non-mission-critical application from another recent thread: a data warehouse. What it does, basically, is let you analyze your sales data to figure out how to sell more. The data warehouse pays its freight in increased profitability (it's not "waste"), but it's not mission-critical because you can continue to operate just fine without it. Your mission-critical app is your online transaction system, without which you can't sell at all.
-- Shimrod (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 17, 1998.
some good points about unexpected bad feedback effects.
Wrt the car analogy; you can fix the clogged cat in an emergency by disconnecting at the exhaust manifold (and driving with all windows open so you don't get CO poisoning ... makes a helluva noise, but have actually done this (briefly) when I hit a pothole and ripped off my whole exhaust system. As for destroying my car: the fuel injection system is definitely mission critical. The rest ain't computerized at all.
A point about "waste" systems; many of the computer systems in the world are there to increase efficiency or to gain a competitive edge. If one organisation loses these, and a competitor does not, and provided there's a surplus of supply over demand, it's curtains. OTOH, if everyone is in a mess, then it may not matter if these systems are down. For example in retail, the customer loyalty-card system and the data warehouse can be down without stopping you opening for business. Whether it matters depends on whether this causes your customers to desert you and whether you can raise prices to compensate for reduced sales or not.
The point about it all coming back to oil and electricity is well made. These are the two absolute essentials (followed not far behind by telecomms and banks), because EVERYTHING else depends on them.
-- Nigel Arnot (email@example.com), December 17, 1998.
Something that may mitigate the "toasting" (as in becoming toast) of companies is that there are going to be so many in the same situation. A large number of applications that are mission critical today because they improve efficiency to such a degree that no company would survive in competition without them, may not be mission critical in 2000. This is particularly true of JIT functions, I'd think. To put it more succintly, problems which today would lead to bankruptcy now, might be so common that as long as the company can produce at all, it will stay viable. Ofcourse, this whole thread seems to be assuming that power stays up (otherwise all fixes are redundant).
-- Tricia the Canuck (firstname.lastname@example.org), December 17, 1998.